Elizabeth Jaeger

By
Photography Christian MacDonald

Published December 2, 2015

AGE: 27.

ORIGINALLY FROM: San Francisco.

CURRENTLY LIVE: Bushwick, Brooklyn.

GALLERY: Jack Hanley Gallery, New York.

DESCRIPTION OF WORK: Sculpture.

WHEN YOU FIRST CONSIDERED YOURSELF A FULL-TIME ARTIST: It’s uncomfortable to decide that “I am an artist,” and it’s still a question I struggle with. I don’t necessarily feel like one all the time, and I’m definitely not a full-time artist: I teach high school and adults, in part because I’m more comfortable with the idea of being an artist if I also help other people. I’m terrified that wanting to be a full-time artist means I am selfish, so I try to avoid the question entirely and just do whatever I do.

THE MOST CHALLENGING OR SUCCESSFUL WORK YOU’VE MADE: Everything I make is challenging for me, and none of it feels very successful. Not challenging in the sense of being physically difficult, rather the process of making work feels akin to sifting through some gross psychological sludge. Being creative involves sorting through your personal shit, your bias in how you perceive things, your nonverbal desires, and your simmering unconscious—it’s intense to go there. Furthermore, when I finally think I’ve finished a work about a specific idea, it often surprises me with another I’m probably trying to suppress. Sometimes it takes years to realize what a work was “really” about, and it’s challenging to let that type of uncontrolled honesty out into the world. When I finally do, I’m always left with the feeling that I could have done it better, refined it more, or gone deeper. Exhibiting work leaves you with this restless feeling that it’s not as successful as it could have been—you just can’t win.

DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A LONE ARTISTS OR FEEL THAT YOU’RE WORKING IN A COMMUNITY OF PEERS?I’ve always had a community of peers that I love, but until recently I’ve felt like a total loner work-wise—alone in my studio, slaving way, not talking about ideas, and only going out to openings and parties with minimal deep conversations. Disconnected. Lately, however, I’ve been making a concerted effort to slow down and be more present to the work of my friends and peers—not only going to their openings, but taking time to ask them about their work and truly understand it—and it’s been a lot more rewarding, socially and professionally. I’ve found the closer you are to your community, the more engaged you are with yourself and the world around you in general. I’ve also started religiously attending ZAX, a Sunday-night restaurant by my friends for friends, and 8-Ball Club, a quasi community center organized by Lele Saveri.

THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST IN NEW YORK: I make my own schedule, and everyone around me is doing something interesting.

THE WORST: Rent is too damn high. And cockroaches suck.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU REACH AN IMPASSE WITH A WORK? Break it.

CURRENTLY WORKING ON: Vases. The most boring vases I can possibly muster. I’m obsessed.